BY SARAH VERICCO
SC Staff Writer
ESU’s counseling services are just one of several departments that has been retrenched at ESU.
For students like alumna Amanda Bateman, who utilized the free services offered on campus, cuts in this student supporting resource is simply unacceptable.
“They probably saved my life,” she said. “And there was always such a long wait whenever I went, I would have to wait weeks for an appointment. How can you cut something so important to students, and so obviously being used?”
Amanda Bateman, 23, sits back comfortably in her seat as she rocks her daughter to sleep in her warm, bare arms. Her arms tell a story at once both fascinating and horrifying—criss-crossed down their entire length, thick, white scars of varied depth stand out distinctly from otherwise smooth, tan skin.
Her legs and much of her torso share the same pattern of cross-hatched scars—permanent relics of years of unbearable depression and a dangerous adaptation to bullying that landed her in the hospital many times.
Amanda, an ESU alumna and new mother, recounts the pain that she endured after years of bullying and harassment.
“I just couldn’t deal then. This,” she says, motioning to a kaleidoscope of scars on her arms, “made it go away. It wasn’t a good thing to do, but it worked back then.”
As a former victim of bullying, Amanda knows firsthand what the harassment does to a person.
“It just makes you feel worthless, absolutely worthless. You look at this person who is hurting you, and all you can do is wonder why me?” She shakes her head at the memories. “It’s the worst thing a person can live through, being a victim like that. I am glad that part of my life is over. I’m glad it ended when I was a teenager and didn’t go on into adulthood. Other people aren’t so lucky.”
The “other people” Amanda refers to are young adults, full-grown men and women who come to college for an education but instead find themselves suffering at the hands of college-aged bullies. One of Amanda’s college roommates was also a victim of bullying.
“I felt so bad for this girl. When she moved in with me, it was because she was sharing an apartment with three girls who viciously harassed and bullied her every day about her body. She reported it, but it didn’t stop. She had to move in order to escape, and she developed an eating disorder as she tried to cope. She was still struggling with it when she moved in with me” said Amanda
When asked what was done about the bullying after it was reported, Amanda shrugged and sadly shook her head.
“What good does it do if you report bullying to your R.A., if your R.A. is friends with your bullies? Being in a position of power doesn’t make bullies get better. It makes them worse. The authority and the protection of the group make them feel like what they’re doing isn’t wrong, and it makes the bullied person feel like no one is there to help and no one is listening to them” she said.
Stories like that of Amanda’s former roommate are not uncommon on ESU’s campus. Other people report being bullied while on campus too. One student agreed for his interview to be included in this article only after being promised that his real name would not be printed in the paper. He worries that if his tormentors find out that he’s spoken, their harassment of him will only get worse.
“Maybe if it was only one, then I wouldn’t have to feel afraid. But since there’s a whole group of them, and it’s their word versus mine, I’m really powerless to stop this. It’s just better if I keep my head down and try to avoid them as much as possible” he said.
This student refers to a group of young men on campus, fellow students who initially pretended to be his friend just so that they could get close enough for him to drop his guard before they began their bullying.
The student recounts one very public instance of torment he suffered at the hands of his gang of bullies.
“The leader, I won’t tell you his name, came to school dressed in a spiderman costume including the mask. He ran behind me, snatched my hat off my head, and made me chase him around the union to get it back. He put it up high where I couldn’t reach it, and he and the rest of them ran off while everyone else laughed at me.”
This student’s on-campus torment is particularly troubling because it almost certainly arises from his peculiarities and self-identified disability—he is a high-functioning autistic male, making him an easy target for his tormentors. He believes that his differences are the reason his bullies target him.
“I can be annoying,” he said. “So I can see why sometimes things happen. But not always.”
When asked why he does not report the bullying, he snorts in disdain and waves a derisive hand.
“Like I said, it’s their word versus mine. People like this student. They think he’s a good guy. They wouldn’t believe that he’s capable of stuff like this. And besides—no one who could change it would care. I’m just a number here, not a person. What happens to me doesn’t matter to the big people on campus.”
Some people on campus do care, and for former students like Amanda, these people are found in ESU’s counseling center.
“The only way I could learn to deal with the pain was through more pain. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I learned healthy and positive ways to cope. I learned to turn my energy from harming myself to creative things like piano or drawing. I learned these through ESU’s free counseling services” she said.
Counseling services offered on campus are included in students’ tuition. At any time, students can make an appointment with counselors or other support staff who are there to help. Amanda used the counseling center to cope with her bullied past, and her old roommate used them to work through her eating disorder.
“My counselor helped me to understand that the bullying was not my fault and that I could overcome it. In there, they helped me to grow past the pain and to move on. After several hospitalizations and suicide attempts, I didn’t think anything could help me get over the pain, but ESU’s counseling services did” she said.
A disconnect seems to exist between students and those who have the power and authority to make decisions that make a difference.
Victims of bullying do not feel safe reporting their harassment, and the only resource available seems likely to take a deep cut in the near future.
“Cutting the counseling services will only hurt students, a lot of students,” said Amanda. “Who could make a decision like that? It seems to me like ESU has a bully of its own.”
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